Madeira is one of the most beautiful places I've been to as a Digital Nomad. It's a little paradise just two hours of flight away from Portugal that offers great weather, stunning nature, and a thriving community.
I stayed five months there, and I will share everything I know in this extensive guide. From the Digital Nomad Village project, to the best places to stay, the best hikes on the island and more. Let's dive in.
Madeira wasn't always a Digital Nomad hub. Tourism mainly consisted of European retirees. It was an initiative by Gonzalo Hall, Startup Madeira, and the local government that really put it on the map for nomads.
The project's goal was to attract remote workers to the island by revitalizing the village of Ponta do Sol. The promise? Free coworking space, community, and an idyllic location.
The pilot was meant to last four months, but it was so successful that it will continue until 2024. More than 11 thousand remote workers from 121 countries have already signed up for it.
To join the initiative, you can register at this form. You will have access to:
The coworking space is the John do Passos Cultural Centre. It can accommodate around 100 people between indoor and outdoor space. There are only 21 seats inside, so if you really need a desk you gotta be there at 9am!
In my experience the outdoor seats are not that comfortable, plus you can't see the screen. The internet speed is good all-around (150 Mbps download, 204 Mbps upload)
The Slack group is where all things social happen. It's the best place to ask questions, learn about events and activities, find flatmates, etc. The great thing about this project is that the community was built from the ground up. People started hosting workshops, teaching skills, exercising together and whatnot.
There are community lunches, a Nomad Coffee Club, Salsa and Bachata classes, Madeira Fitness Friends for workouts, Freediving, Yoga, Hiking. To get an idea, have a look at the official Google Calendar of daily activities and events.
Ponta do Sol is lovely, but it's a small town. We're talking about a beach, a few cafes and restaurants, and a coworking space. That's pretty much it for nomads. To make the most of it, get involved with the community as much as possible.
Since Ponta is small, there isn't too much housing available - but the area extends on the surrounding mountains, where many nomads find accommodation. But I warn you, be prepared to walk a lot or rent a car!
The best way to find accommodation is to:
Many nomads are staying at the five-star hotel Estalagem, a beautiful location where many events are held and which offers special long-term deals for nomads.
The Digital Nomad Madeira initiative attracted way more people than Ponta do Sol could host, so other locations around the island have developed a community organically. Some nomads live in Funchal, Machico, Santa Cruz, and Porto Santo.
Funchal is the biggest city and the capital of Madeira. It's a great place to live, with sub-tropical parks, cool restaurants, and a long promenade where to go for a walk or a run. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Funchal:
Moving around in Funchal is easy. You can walk almost everywhere, or if you're tired you can take an Uber or Bolt (it's super cheap).
The best way to find accommodation in Funchal is via Flatio, Booking, or similar platforms. We stayed at Quinta Mae dos Homens and loved it. Some nomads are staying at Savoy Palace, a 5-star hotel that offers long-term deals.
There are not too many cafes to work from; however, you can work from Cowork Funchal or the Design Centre Nini Andrade Silva (by spending a minimum of 12$ in the café).
Machico is a municipality just East of Funchal with a nice beach and great hiking options all around. Madeira Remote East Coasters offers a free coworking space and co-living options. All the daily activities are shared in the same main Slack group of Digital Nomads Madeira.
Santa Cruz is the municipality between Funchal and Machico (and where the airport is) Just like for Machico, there is both coworking and coliving. However, the coworking is not free.
Porto Santo is a smaller island just 2 hours away by ferry from Funchal. It offers a beautiful white sand beach, great hikes and crazy rock formations. It's relatively small and quiet, I would recommend it if you want to relax or "disconnect" for a while.
From October to December and March to May, there is an organized Nomad Living at the Vila Baleira Resort for around 600-800€ per month.
There are plenty of other cute villages where you could spend some time in Madeira. I’ll just mention a few more, such as Câmara De Lobos, Calheta, Jardim do Mar, and Porto Moniz.
Madeira is a huge mountain coming out of the Atlantic Ocean, created by a series of volcanic eruptions 5 million years ago. When you look up at the starry sky at night, you can feel the wild. In my opinion, the best thing the island has to offer is nature.
Here are my favorite five things to do on the island (I keep the hikes for the next section):
I hiked in Italy, Indonesia, Peru and still some Madeiran hikes made it to my top five. These were my favorites:
Before you go on any trail, I'd recommend you:
Also, it's great to have insurance in case anything happens. My favorite insurance as a nomad is SafetyWing, which offers comprehensive coverage in over 175 countries. If you're aged 10-39 years, their Nomad Insurance plan costs around $45 USD for any period up to 4 weeks. You can activate or deactivate your policy anytime. Also, they've recently added the option to include adventure sports, like kite surfing, martial arts, and skydiving. But also protection against electronics theft for laptops, tablets, and cameras for up to $1000 per stolen item.
If you need it, I have an affiliate link to share: Go get insured!
🛫 Flight connections: The cheapest airline flying to Funchal is Easyjet (less than 100€), but Ryanair also offers direct flights from many European cities starting in the summer of 2022. In alternative, you have the more expensive TAP.
🚗 Getting around: They say if you can drive in Madeira, you can drive anywhere. It's true. Madeira has many steep and narrow roads, tunnels, and high-speed highways. I'd recommend driving only if you're a confident driver, or else it can be stressful. I can recommend two car rentals: 7M Rent a Car and Rent-a-Car Madeira.
Buses work around the island, but they make many stops to pick up people in remote areas, so it takes longer to reach any place. However, they can be a lot of fun! We took the bus a few times to go from Arco da Calheta to Ponta do Sol and it was quite a ride. The views were great and we feared falling off a cliff a few times, but that's what made it thrilling. The ride is super cheap (1,3€) and don't worry, the drivers are experienced.
Both Uber and Bolt are available on the island, making it very convenient to move around, although they operate mostly in Funchal. My recommendation is to make friends with local drivers (via Uber or Taxi) and then call them directly to get good deals throughout your stay.
💸 Cost of living: Madeira is cheaper than most of Europe, offering a great quality of life. The cost of living depends mostly on whether you will share your accommodation or not. I would say on average you can live with 700€-1500€ per month.
🌞 Weather: I've been in Madeira between January and May and the weather has been overall great regardless. It's mostly sunny with a temperature of 16-25 degrees. Yes, it can get cold. But never that cold. (Unless you're in the mountains, naked, alone.)
Overall, the Southern coast is warmer. Keep in mind that there is a big difference between sea level and the mountains. It gets cold and humid pretty fast as you go higher in altitude. As a rule of thumb, a taxi driver told us, check for banana plantations: they are located where it's warmest. No banana plantations? Not so warm.
In conclusion, Madeira is a real gem of Europe and more people are discovering its beauty. I hope this guide will help you navigate your way around it.